Tested: Skullcandy Ink’d+ Active Wireless Earbuds

Not technically wireless, but that's the best part

It only just dawned on me that the Skullcandy Ink’d + Active earbuds are “budget” earbuds. We don’t review a lot of actual “budget” products here at Bike Mag. Sure, occasionally, we’ll cover the entry-level models of some of our favorite bikes. They tend to prove that good design will always shine through, even if it isn’t getting amplified by expensive bells and whistles. We have our limits, though. There are price points that carry with them far too many compromises. When you start giving up on bare necessities like reasonably modern geometry and fluid-damped forks, you’re only cheating yourself. Fully aware of how snobbish I sound, bikes below a certain threshold get in the way of truly experiencing what we love about mountain biking.

Of course, ask me about pretty much any non-mountain-bike product, and I tend to change my tune. My kitchen knives are still the ones I bought at the thrift store between my parents’ house and my first apartment. My television was left here by whoever moved out when I moved in. And don’t ask me where my jeans came from. To me, sometimes good enough is more than enough. 

That’s why I’m here to talk about the Skullcandy Ink’d + Active wireless earbuds. A couple months ago, we reviewed the Jaybird Vista wireless earbuds. Unlike the Ink’d + Active, the Jaybirds have a great reputation among audiophiles, they look modern and they actually are wireless. But the Ink’d + Active wireless earbuds have … wires, the audio quality is simply adequate and, when wearing them, I feel like I’m wearing the headphone equivalent of a cell-phone holster. But for me, they’re more than enough.

Skullcandy Ink'd Active
Photo Credit: Travis Engel

What makes them “enough” is that they sound fine. I’ve tried a set of Bose wireless earbuds once, and there’s something about the bass they put out that makes you feel like you’re at a concert. The lows inside the Ink’d + Active don’t have that kind of range. But you’re not going to find it in any $60 pair of earbuds. But you often will find something that the Ink’d + Actives thankfully don’t have. There’s none of the tinny highs that I’d gotten used to when I go for bottom-of-the-barrel audio. So, while there’s nothing all that earth-shattering about the sound quality, there’s nothing distracting about it. No constant reminders that, if you just had more disposable income, you could actually enjoy that Chumbawamba song you downloaded to be ironic that now somehow keeps coming up on shuffle. It’ll sound fine in the Ink’d + Actives.

Skullcandy Ink'd Active Wire Stow
Photo Credit: Travis Engel

But more often than not, I’m listening to a podcast on my rides. Audio quality is just not as big a deal. But what is a big deal is that I can stop listening when I get to the downhill. To each their own, but Ira Glass doesn’t really get me pumped for schralping. I just want to unbud at the top of the hill, rebud at the bottom and do it quickly. That’s why I don’t think I’ll ever own anything like the Jaybirds or Airpods or any other expensive microscopic electronics. It doesn’t help that I can’t keep track of regular-sized electronics either. That’s why the Skullcandy Ink’d + Active is perfect for me. All I have to do is unplug them and tuck the wires into their channels on the base. Instead of dangling on my chest (which honestly isn’t any more annoying than a Camelbak hose dangling on my chest) they sit tucked in behind my neck. And the best part is, I won’t lose them.

 

Something I did lose is the little rubber, I don’t know, dolphin fins that are on there? I’ve never had this style of earbud fall out of my ear without them, and they just make inserting them a little more clumsy and wearing them a little more uncomfortable. Luckily, they pull right off. Of course you have to pull off the actual bud, and the Ink’d + Actives come with four different sizes. I often find myself between the small and medium size buds, and there was the perfect fit in the lineup.

Skullcandy Ink'd Active bud sizes
Photo Credit: Travis Engel

The battery had plenty of life for my use. I could easily use them all day. Getting ready in the morning, pedaling for a descent epic, and then cooking dinner and doing dishes. The one time I kept track, I got them to go for 12 hours before I couldn’t keep checking anymore. Skullcandy claims 15. I do wish there were a battery indicator somewhere. And the icon on my iPhone would show full all the way until they were just about empty. That’s one of very few usability complaints. They had the annoying habit of getting upset if I ever had them paired with both my phone and my laptop, but then walked away from one or the other. I had to either restart them or reunite them with their lost device to get them to stop beeping. Aside from that, they’re clean and hassle-free. Enough so that, other than actually having wires, they’re perfectly modern wireless earbuds. The three buttons are easy to find and have nice, positive clicks, and the construction is clean and streamlined. The base is flexible enough to be tied in a knot or stuffed in a pocket, and is easy to forget about when I’m wearing it. Of course, that means I sometimes end up accidentally leaving them on when going places where such devices are less than fashionable. But we already covered how little I think fashion matters.

Get the details from skullcandy.com

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